President ‘stunned, shocked’ by LJM death
It was a moment when President Benigno Aquino III himself needed some words of comfort, as he too was “stunned and shocked” to learn of the passing of the Inquirer editor in chief, Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc.
On Monday afternoon, Mr. Aquino paid his last respects to Magsanoc, whose pursuit of press freedom and democracy ran parallel with the struggles of his father, the martyred opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., during the martial law regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The President arrived at the Aeternum at Heritage Park in Taguig City at a little after
4 p.m. and stayed for two hours.
Magsanoc’s husband, Carlitos, daughter, Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, and sons Nico and Marty, and youngest grandchild, 6-year old Maica, welcomed the President.
Inside the Aeternum chapel, Mr. Aquino prayed before the urn that held Magsanoc’s ashes, his eyes shut.
The President was also scheduled to deliver a eulogy for the late icon of press freedom last night, the last day of the wake.
Mr. Aquino told the Magsanocs that he was having Christmas Eve dinner with his family when Inquirer Lifestyle editor, Thelma Sioson San Juan, called up with the tragic news.
“According to the President, he was too stunned and shocked. He couldn’t say anything to Thelma to console her because he needed some comforting words himself,” Alikpala said in an interview.
Alikpala said Mr. Aquino also told the family “to take their time” in seeking to heal the pain and the loss of LJM, Magsanoc’s initials which everyone at the Inquirer uses to refer to their esteemed and beloved boss.
Recognizing the struggle between holding on and letting go, Mr. Aquino told Alikpala that there were times when he would ponder on whether “one should still pray for the loved one to live longer, or ask God to end the suffering.”
Even as the President and Magsanoc shared an enduring friendship, it did not keep the feisty and outspoken LJM from sharing with Mr. Aquino her thoughts about his administration and the pressing issues of the day.
For LJM, the President she loved and respected was no sacred cow at the Inquirer.
The Inquirer published stories and editorials critical of the Aquino administration, including certain appointments he made, the pork barrel scam, the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program, and the Metro Manila traffic mess.
Alikpala said the President also told her that he and LJM had been texting each other quite often recently.
When he learned that LJM could not make it to the 30th anniversary of the Inquirer last Dec. 9, he sent her a text message wishing her to get well soon, Alikpala said.
In his speech at the anniversary event, the President hailed the courage of Magsanoc and Inquirer founding chair Eggie Duran-Apostol in bringing real news to the Filipino people, defying the media censorship imposed by the dictator Marcos and writing critical articles during dangerous times.
Mr. Aquino called the Inquirer the paper of record in the post-Edsa years and said it was the one “best equipped” to correct the martial law revisionism now taking place, especially in the run-up to the presidential elections next year.
Magsanoc herself had said that the Inquirer was the keeper of the Edsa flame.
She underscored how the peaceful revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship regained for the press its freedom and for the country its democracy.
At one point last Monday, the President saw a commercial airline flying over the Aeternum minutes after taking off from the airport and noticed that the landing gear was still out.
According to Alikpala, Mr. Aquino said that was quite dangerous.
“I asked him if shouldn’t he mention it to the agency responsible for the airlines. In [a matter of] seconds, the President was on the phone with an aviation official telling him about the airline and what he had seen,” she said.
“You know, Mom likes the owners but she never really liked their airline,” she said.
It was, for all intents and purposes, LJM making her presence felt.
There was something that needed to be addressed for the safety of the riding public and she made the President act on it pronto.
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